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Galapagos Tortoise Reserve
Giant tortoises, slowly mowing the grass

Galapagos Tortoise Reserve

Galapagos tortoises are the most recognizable icon of the sleepy archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Known for their massive size and long lifespan, they slowly wander the volcanic island chain looking for their next meal.

Discovered in the 16th century, the 250,000-strong Galapagos tortoises had no natural predators and flourished throughout the islands. The slow-moving, grass-eating vertebrates became an accessible food source for the newly established locals on the island chain. The past 300 years have seen a rapid decline of Galapagos tortoises to a low of only 3,000 in the 1970s. Today, the 19,000+ remaining tortoises are considered a threatened species — the Darwin Research Foundation is leading conservation efforts with help from the international community to give these gentle giants a fighting chance.

Sadly, the conservation efforts were unable to find a mate for the last-known Pinta tortoise. The extinction of the species happened in 2012 when Lonesome George unexpectedly died. He is on display at the Darwin Research Station for all to see.

Santa Cruz Island has a fantastic attraction not far from Puerto Ayora where you can visit a gathering of dozens (maybe hundreds) of huge tortoises in their natural habitat. Rancho Primicias (Giant Tortoise Reserve) is a sprawling private ranch that is a haven for the prehistoric inhabitants to graze on grass and do tortoise things.

These giant dinosaur-like creatures just slowly wander around the island eat grass and pooping. There’s tortoise poop everywhere – you’ve been warned.

Visiting tortoises at Rancho Primicias is one of the largest congregations of tortoises; however, they’re easily found roaming the fields and on the roads of the windward side of Santa Cruz Island. Galapagos Tortoises are shy and usually take refuge in their massive shell when humans approach.

Interested in visiting Galapagos Tortoise Reserve? Travel Blogger and author of DESTINATIONS UNKNOWN Sean Brown has compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help make your trip a breeze.

What is the closest airport to the Giant Tortoise Reserve?

The closes airport is Seymour Airport (IATA: GPS) on the island of Baltra. It is the only airport for Santa Cruz island is does require a USD 5 bus ride and a USD 1 water taxi ride to get to Santa Cruz island.

What is the local currency at the Giant Tortoise Reserve?

Ecuador has standardized on the United States Dollar (USD) as their local currency. Entrance into reserve is free, but supported by donations in the hut.

Can you touch the tortoises at the Giant Tortoise Reserve?

No. Take only pictures. Leave only footsteps.

Galapagos Tortoise Reserve

Isla Santa Cruz, Ecuador

Latitude: -0.670402

Longitude: -90.430724

Telephone: +593 99 439 1590

Official Website:


World traveler, travel blogger and sarcastic genius. Masters degree in blanket fort engineering and double minor in Netflix and nachos.